Sprint and T-Mobile both recently released unlimited data plans that aren’t actually unlimited — you can use a whole bunch of data, but you are limited to streaming SD-quality video and slow speeds for gaming. As part of a new plan that Sprint is offering you can now pay $20 a month more to stream video in full HD and game faster.
This plan is called Unlimited Freedom Premium, which pretty much goes to show that Sprint didn’t understand the meaning of the word “Unlimited” in the first place.
On Sprint’s regular “Unlimited” plan, you have unlimited data, but limits on what you can use it for. Video streaming is limited to 480p, and gaming is throttled to 2Mbps. The “Unlimited Freedom Premium” (gags) ups those limits to 1080p and 8Mbps respectively. If you want to stream 4K video, good luck. So, you pay $80 per month, $20 more than the regular plan, and it’s still not actually unlimited.
This isn’t just Sprint’s problem, in all fairness. T-Mobile has similar limitations on its “Unlimited” plans, and you can also remove those limitations for $15 per month. (Just to keep score here: T-Mobile invented the concept of an “unlimited plus” plan first, and Sprint is copying T-Mobile’s badness.)
Sprint has been confused over naming before. Marcelo Claure, Sprint’s outspoken CEO who has proven in the past that he doesn’t understand what unlimited means, keeps referring to Sprint’s plan as #BestUnlimitedOnThePlanet. As well as being a hashtag that’s way too long, it’s also false. As previously pointed out, plenty of non-American carriers offering genuinely unlimited plans for less money, so unless you could 480p-throttled video as a good feature, Sprint is clearly worse.
Terminology aside, I still think T-Mobile and Sprint’s new data plans are great options for almost everyone. I don’t personally care about watching HD video on my mobile device, so I think the plans are just fine. But the naming is a problem. We’ve fought long and hard to establish net neutrality for broadband providers exactly to stop this kind of preferential internet treatment.
If the power company told you you were getting unlimited electricity for the month, you’d rightly assume you can keep the lights on all night and turn the heating up to 11. In T-Mobile and Sprint’s version of the world, what you get to do is keep all the energy-saving lightbulbs turned on, and pay $20 a month if you want the AC on full blast. Sure, the new plans are good, but the naming is important. Unlimited should mean unlimited, and the entire concept of “Unlimited Freedom Premium” should have been DOA.